Nothing puts a damper on a holiday celebration like a trip to the emergency room, or jail. Here are tips for celebrating safely:
Every year, Dr. Fred Mullins sees fireworks-related injuries at the Doctors Hospital emergency room.
Mullins, the medical director of Joseph M. Still Burn Center, typically sees about 15 to 20, but he has seen as many as 46.
"When something like a bottle rocket goes off, you only get a skin burn," he said. "But there's a blast effect, so I've seen people with fingers blown off and broken bones, usually around the hands and face."
Children younger than 5 are most likely to be injured by sparklers, which burn at about 2,000 degrees, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The agency offers some safety tips:
- Never re-light or pick up fireworks that haven't fully exploded.
- Light one item at a time and step back.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in a metal or glass container.
- Douse spent devices with water before discarding to prevent a trash fire.
- Avoid buying fireworks in brown paper packaging. This can be a sign the fireworks were make for professional displays.
Katato Utley sits behind bars today as a reminder of a July Fourth celebration that went wrong in 2008.
She was sentenced to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after firing a gun in the air. The bullet wounded Karen Franklin, of Johnston, S.C., in the chest.
"People don't think about what goes up, must come down," Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Calvin Chew said.
On New Year's Eve, a stray bullet -- apparently fired in celebration -- killed 4-year-old Marquel Peters. He and his mother were at a DeKalb County church service when the bullet came through the roof.
Chew said it doesn't happen a lot in Augusta, but there are isolated accidents.
The Georgia State Patrol and Department of Transportation expect 2,072 accidents, 999 injuries and 18 fatalities this holiday weekend. Follow this advice to stay safe:
- Remember not to text. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office will have extra officers working over the weekend, Lt. Scott Gay said. "We concentrate on everything," he said, "from speeding vehicles to reckless driving to people who are driving impaired and, of course, the new texting laws."
- Get a ride; don't drive drunk.
The Tow to Go program, sponsored by AAA Auto Club South and Budweiser, will provide a confidential ride and tow for free to anyone. Just call (800) AAA-HELP (222-4357).
- No gawking while driving. Another common cause of accidents in Augusta is people who gawk at fireworks while driving or stop to watch without getting out of the way of traffic.
Gay recalled one gawker last year who caused a crash that injured about 10 people on the Gordon Highway bridge heading into South Carolina.
"We have people in place to keep traffic moving, and it is against the law to stop in the roadway and watch fireworks," he said.